The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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Page 66 of 152

OVER-THE-TABLE Keep an eye on this column for our one-on-one encounters with winemakers, spirits producers and other industry players who visit our offices. The Blue Oak of Provence PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI N Nicole Rolet of Chêne Bleu. icole Rolet, Principal of Chêne Bleu—a contemporary biodynamic estate of medieval origins, situated in a hilltop town bordering Gigondas in the Vaucluse region of Provence—was a welcome and riveting guest at THE TASTING PANEL HQ this past September. Rolet tasted us on four of her exquisite wines, produced by Jean-Louis Gallucci with inspiration from consulting star winemakers Zelma Long, Philippe Cambie, Andrew Murray and Doug Margerum. With several vineyard sites on the estate, a private forest surrounds the property, which is also a bird refuge and, according to noted soil experts Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, is a "miniature Jurassic Park" of microbiology. The vines are rooted into hard chalky clay and limestone strata, with no topsoil and subterranean water tables 100 to 300 feet below the surface. We were treated to the Chêne Bleu 2012 Rosé, a non-saignée rosé of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault (SRP $29.95); the 2010 Aliot, a rich blend of Roussane, White Grenache, Marsanne and Viognier (SRP $84.95); and their flagship reds, the 2007 Héloïse, made of Grenache, Syrah and Viognier, and 2007 Abélard, a blend of Grenache and Syrah (both SRP $99.95). All are imported by Wilson Daniels. We gushed over each wine and were impressed with the supreme balance of fruit and noticeable mineral components that act as a through-line, nearly conjuring the land itself, which lies at the crossroads of four appellations. Although French critic Michel Bettane has called the Chêne Bleu project "the birth of a new grand cru," the decision was made to remain a Vin de Pays, because as Rolet explains, "Terroir and appellations are sometimes in conflict with the reality of geography and climate," and for this property and these wines, they believe the best results are achieved without the appellation constraints. —Jonathan Cristaldi Ray Signorello Jr the distinguished proprietor of Napa ., Valley's Signorello Estate, dropped by our offices with his distributor, Jim Smith of Adventures in Wine, to taste with the editorial team. We sampled several of Ray's classic estate releases as well as wines from his more modern, freewheeling projects destined for on- and off-premise. The 2011 Trim (SRP $11), a primarily Cabernet blend with a California appellation, exhibited black fruit and pepper, pencil lead, olives and tobacco on the nose followed by a lighter palate of red and black fruit with a toffee finish—a perfect by-the-glass red. On another tier, the 2010 Fuse (SRP $28) is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Syrah and Merlot supplying spice and roundness. The nose is distinctly Napa, with rich plum and dark berry fruit giving way to purple floral notes, a supple mouthfeel opens up to plums and black jam, nicely integrated cedar and a lingering finish. The tasting took a more serious tone as Ray poured one of his signature wines, the Signorello Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $90), which possesses a lovely ruby core and offers up sweet spices, tobacco, pepper and delicate PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI Napa Heritage, Broad Appeal Jim Smith (left), Sales Director of distributor Adventures in Wine, and Ray Signorello Jr. red flower tones, on the palate an explosion of berries, violets and cocoa integrate with chalky mineral character leading into a balanced, persistent finish. —J. C. 66  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_066-107.indd 66 9/23/13 10:33 PM

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